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Depeche Mode – Heaven

February 21, 2013

Music | by Danny & Josh


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Depeche Mode was always the band least likely to. Four Basildon pretty-boys who helped plough the Synth-Pop/New Romantic furrow of the early-Eighties, they were denied the credibility of their peers, considered too lightweight, insubstantial, lacking the unashamed grandeur of OMD, the avant-garde innovation of Ultravox or the pure theatre of Visage. Or, as Rolling Stone magazine rather spitefully put it, “PG-rated fluff”. Yet their sound evolved from the perceived plinkety-plonk of debut album ‘Speak and Spell’, through the industrial-influenced ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’, to the Gothic-tinged ‘Black Celebration’ and ‘Music for the Masses’ and, whilst their contemporaries had either aged, stagnated or crashed and burned, Depeche Mode had gone on to sell-out US stadia.

It’s incredible to think that, through occasional line-up changes, the band has been working more or less continuously for over thirty years, even though lead singer Dave Gahan’s own personal demons might have curtailed the band’s career two decades ago. Yet they have endured and – now a three-piece – they are on the cusp of their thirteenth studio album ‘Delta Machine’, due to be released on 26th March. Since previous album ‘Sounds of the Universe’ four years ago, the band has largely been touring in promotion of it, though their itinerary was temporarily derailed by Gahan suffering a cancer scare. ‘Heaven’ represents a number of firsts; first single from the album, first release for new label Columbia Records (they left EMI in 2011) and their first single for three years.

Lyrically, it echoes the sentiments of songwriter Martin Gore’s take on the album, in particular his desire for the listener to “get some kind of peace” from listening to it (“Surrender to my will/Forever and ever/I dissolve in trust/I will sing with joy/I will end up dust/I’m in heaven”). Musically, it has overtones of some of the more subdued work of Muse though – paradoxically – is mostly reminiscent of a sedated ‘Feeling Good’, with its grizzly bass and the same sombre descending piano chord sequence, itself neatly synonymous with the prevalent air of resignation. With much of their early output eschewing the kitchen sink approach to production, Depeche Mode were never afraid to leave some of the canvas unpainted, and the extensive use of percussion that characterised the ‘breathability’ of that material continues here.

Early indications are that ‘Delta Machine’ is set to be a relatively introspective work and – though it would be easy for a band this long in the tooth to sound jaded – Gore has hinted at a recording which is of its time. With Depeche Mode having so successfully re-invented themselves over such a long period, who are we to doubt him?

Mark Scott